Office 365 platform is very powerful. However, I have noticed that most customers derive only fraction of the potential benefits. There are many reason for this bleak outcome. Refer to my series on Office 365 Worst Practices for details. In this article I will highlight the reverse Office 365 Best Practices.
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Adoption, Consumption, Effective Utilization, Efficiency Maximization, Workplace transformation, etc. are the words / phrases used while describing maximum and relevant usage of all Office 365 tools by all users. They all mean the same. The objective is to maximize ROI and work efficiency in order to drive personal as well as organizational growth.
Office 365 Best Practices
Do not buy the cheapest option
Many customers just want to move from on-premise to cloud. They think that is the ONLY benefit of moving to Office 365. Just convert from CAPEX to OPEX – save on-premise overheads and that’s it. This is not the ONLY benefit of O365. There are a thousand more. Think of empowerment of all users (while saving money).
Go for E3 or E5 SKU. For ALL users. Yes. The cost will be significant. But if utilized appropriately, unimaginable improvements will follow in months. Break-even can happen in as little as six months.
Disclaimer: I do not benefit monetarily by sales of Microsoft products. As you know, I am an MVP (evangelist) and RD.
IT alone should not drive Office 365 adoption
There may be very compelling reasons for IT to spearhead and drive the Office 365 migration project. However, it is not just an infrastructure migration. Unlike most products, Office 365 is NOT transparent to end users. In fact, it is very visible to them. Every user spends 4 hours or more using Office tools. If you want to change (improve) their usage of these tools and add many more tools, you better do it in a manner that is compelling to all users. Push does not work (unless it is a security issue).
Pull is requried. IT alone cannot generate that pull. IT must do this along with the business side.
Involve top management throughout the project
Top Management is the crucial component which is often missed. It is not enough to have a couple of powerful sponsors. The top management has to experience the efficiency transformation first-hand. Only then they will be able to support the initiative wholeheartedly. Otherwise they just cut a ribbon, give a motivating speech at the launch and then nothing happens. Everyone remains inefficient happily thereafter!
All possible business heads should be a part of the Office 365 project. Why? Because, all of them stand to gain substantially from the potential productivity transformation. If some business heads refuses to support the initiative, leave them alone. After they see the success stories around them, they will happily join the mainstream.
If you cannot convince the Top Management, do not bother to convince the users. Your adoption drive has already failed.
Launch is important but not enough
Everyone plans for the launch. It is an event to show off your contribution, gain recognition, motivate more users to join, demonstrate tangible improvement and so on. No problem. Great. Go ahead and put posters, change desktop images, insert banners on intranet home pages, create mailers, create a buzz, conduct quizzes…
That is just the beginning. If nothing happens beyond this, the end comes swiftly. Any kind of excitement reduces soon.
If excitement was sustained, it would be called boredom!
Unless you convert that excitement into a necessity (a good habit), the benefits will be very short-lived. ROI will be a distant dream. Remember, Office 365 is a subscription, but it does not include wisdom and capability transformation. Software cannot do it alone. We need sustenance.
To achieve this you need many things including – having a significant training budget, internal team to drive efficiency and ability to highlight internal successes to motivate all users on a long-term basis.
Office 365 is not just a small utility. It can transform lives and organizations. Give it enough time and perseverance to transform you.
Learning is not FREE
Office 365 contains 20+ tools. Most users know only four – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. At least they think that they know.
Unfortunately, nobody knows how to use Office efficiently. We are all trial and error artists!
Just adding 16 more components and conducting a half a day training is not going to change anything. This is the height of wishful thinking. Each tool needs to be explained in terms of the need and its benefits.
In most cases, the rollout of tools (and related training) is phased out over a year or more. In this case, every user does not even get exposed to every tool – which is a perfect recipe for failure.
Roll out all products at once – in phases
This is contrary to common practice of deploying one component at a time. Provide all tools together. Sounds complex? No problem – break it down into phases. In each phase include a manageable set of users. It could be a location, team or department. Initially have smaller set of users, learn from the rollout and then expand the horizon.
Make sure the learning activities are synchronized with the rollout. The worst case scenario is a user who returns from a training – highly motivated to try the new stuff, to realize that the laptop is still running older version of Office and no trace of Office 365. It is a frustrating experience for users. This creates negative word-of-mouth publicity which can destroy the adoption drive.
Exchange down and all others up
This should be the larger objective. The most common reason for work inefficiency is the misuse of Outlook. Now with OneDrive, Teams, Skype, Groups, Planner and other tools, the need for using email is reducing dramatically. All these tools eliminate mails and provide a more focused channel for working together.
If email usage continues to grow with minimal increase in the usage of other tools, your adoption strategy (and execution) has failed. In this case, relook at the content, provide more focus on new tools, also explain why email misuse is bad and provide more hands-on experiences to convince users. Publish internal case studies to make people aware that it works within our organization as well (not just in other company’s case study).
Empower users with analytics
Depending upon the product(s) you have, emphasize on teaching the new method of analytics. Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View and Power Map constitute the new platform called Power BI. If every user adopts to Power BI, there can be unimaginable improvement in everything that the organization does. This happens even without branching into big data, IOT and other recent technologies. Ever since Power BI was introduced, I have not seen a single organization which has leveraged this powerful toolkit across all users. What a waste!
Office 365 contains Office. Remember that!
Almost routinely, I see that the adoption plan just does not include Office itself! The logic is, we have been using Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook for many years (or decades). Everyone knows how to use these tools. Why waste time and money? Just cover OneDrive, Skype, Teams, Groups and OneNote. Wrong thought process. Why?
Office has been around for decades. Any new product Microsoft adds is DESIGNED to integrate with Office. Nothing is created in isolation. Therefore, for all these cloud tools to be utilized efficiently, they must be used from WITHIN Office.
Integration is the most important feature of Office platform. By excluding Office from the training and adoption plan, you are literally ensuring sub-optimal results. No question of having a good return on investment.
One more reason for including Office. It has evolved beyond our imagination in 30 years. Unfortunately, nobody keeps track of how Office is becoming better and offering more and more benefits with lesser effort. Reinventing Office is a great way to transform efficiency – along with the new cloud tools.
There is more… But for now, this is a good start.
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